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Kofman Dedicates Efforts to Recognition for Historic State College Buildings

by and on May 30, 2018 5:30 AM

Nadine Kofman recently presented a historic plaque to the State Theatre on College Avenue, and it turns out it is the 16th she has been responsible for placing on State College buildings.

Kofman graduated from State College High School in 1961 and holds a degree in English from Penn State. She worked as a journalist most of her career for the Pennsylvania Mirror and the Centre Daily Times, and currently writes a column for the Centre County Gazette’s sister publication, Town& Gown. As a member of the State College Centennial Commission, she compiled a history of the buildings of State College in 1996, which netted her an award from the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

With the assistance of the Penn State Alumni Association and Downtown State College Improvement District, Kofman has been able to create plaques to place on historic locations in the borough. A lot of research goes into the planning before the plaques can be ordered.

“I spent many hours in the basement of the Centre County Library and Historical Museum in order to write the history of the buildings,” said Kofman.

The most recent building to receive a plaque is the State Theatre. Kofman was present at the first meeting of the group that made the theater into Centre County’s community performing arts center.

“The State Theatre is like my second home,” said Kofman. “I have volunteered there and ushered. I like the Metropolitan Opera’s (shows) that are shown there through simulcasting.”

Kofman spoke about various downtown buildings and what they housed over the years:

■ Nittany Avenue Elementary School opened in 1924 amidst the growth of the Frazier Street School, which required the addition of a second elementary school for the area. It remained a fifth- and sixth-grade school until it closed in 1964. In 1965, the school became the administrative building for the State College Area School District.

■ Memorial Field came about when, in 1914, the State College Area School District bought what was known as a sinkhole and leveled it in 1916 to make a baseball field. Later, a track and bleacher seating were added and, in 1937, grandstand seating was put in. Floodlights allowed for the playing of the first official football game.

■ The Glennland Building on East Beaver Avenue and South Pugh Streets opened in 1933 and became State College’s biggest apartment building and also the tallest, containing the borough’s first residential elevator. It once held the first radio station in State College.

■ The Crabtree Building, built in 1924 on South Allen Street, was home to Crabtree Jewelers, Aurum Jewelers and now Kondu Japanese restaurant.

■ The Smith Building on South Allen Street was named for Smith’s Barber Shoppe. Fire destroyed the original wooden building and, in 1924, local architect P. Boyd Kapp, working with George Smith, redesigned the new building with the arched entryway and twisted columns that characterize it now. The Smith Building is home to Rinaldo’s Barber Shop. Each owner has tried to keep the original barber chairs, sinks, etc., to retain the charm of the era in which it was built.

■ The Leitzell Building sits at the corner of College Avenue and Allen Street, across from the Corner Room. It had been the home of the A Store, owned by Harry Leitzell, which sold sports supplies, books and more. On the Allen Street side, the building housed Graham’s — a newsstand and tobacco and sweet shop. Moyer Jewelers operates there now.

■ The Foster/Gentzel Building, on the corner of Pugh Street and College Avenue, was the site of many firsts: the first apartment building, the first to have a concrete sidewalk and the first to house a children’s clothing store. Most recently, Spats Café and the All-American Rathskeller occupied the space.

■ The Dale Building on the corner of Fraser Street and Calder Way was a grocery store, television store and a bakery at various times, since being built in 1914. Nittany Quill is an occupant of the building.

■ The Nittany Theatre Building, home to movies for 70 years after its opening in 1914, is now the site of a Kish Bank branch.

■ The Schlow Building opened on East College Avenue in 1927 and was home to Schlow's Quality Shop. It's now the location of Irving's

■ The Hotel State College is in the same structure as the Corner Room and the Allen Street Grill. It was the first part of the building to open in 1857 and was established as “The Agricultural College Hotel” in 1864.

■ The Breon-Stover Building, a Spanish Colonial Revival-Style building, replaced a burned structure in 1926. It housed photography studios for many years and later received jewelers as its tenants. Kranich's Jewelers occupied the site from 1976 to 2017.

■ Lincoln Hall is a 1910 structure that was a rooming house for African-American male students from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. It is located at 119 N. Barnard St.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Connie Cousins covers Centre County for the Gazette.
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